Epilogue for the AT

After several months off the trail I finally got around to sorting through all of my photos and compiling my GPS data and notes from the trip.  Below is a gallery of my favorite images, a record of my campsites, my gear lists, and a tally sheet of various events.  Thanks for following along!


The Final Tallies:

Days: 52  

AT Miles Covered: 412

Total Miles Covered, Including All Non-AT Side Trails: ~450

Miles Hobbes (My Dog) Covered With Me: 93 

Times I Lost the Trail and Had to Backtrack: 2

Times I Lost the Trail and Reconnected in a Totally Different Spot: 1 

Times a Map Saved My Ass: 2 

Bears Seen: 4

People Mistaken for Bears: a few

Razors Those People are Going to Need to Tame Those Ferocious Beards Upon Returning to Civilization: more than a few

Snakes Seen: 8

Ponies Seen: >20

Spiders I Wish I Hadn't Seen: >2000

Repairs Made with Duct Tape: 2

Repairs Made with Fabric Tape: 2

Repairs Made with a Sewing Kit: 4

Repairs Made with a Rock: 1

Total Items of Gear Damaged Beyond Repair: 3

Items of Gear Damaged Beyond Repair by a Rock: 1

Times my Dog Farted and Scared Himself: 2

Times my Dog Farted and Scared Me: 1

Times I Farted and Scared my Dog: only the trees know 

M&Ms Consumed: 2.8 lbs (actual amount, I don't kid around with my m&ms)

Wine Consumed : 6.5 liters  

Pizzas Consumed on the Trail: 5 (You thought that number would be higher, didn't you?  I have self control, okay?) 

Pizzas Consumed Since Leaving the Trail: >20 (alright I'm working on the self control) 

Burgers Consumed on the Trail: 4

BBQ Stops on the Trail: 6

Weight Lost Despite Frequent Pizzas, Burgers, BBQ, and 2.8 lbs of M&Ms: ~12 lbs (If I can be serious for a moment, weight loss on the trail is pretty extreme and can be unhealthy.  If anyone is considering long distance hiking make sure to plan your food properly.)

A Google Maps record of all of my campsites:

I took hundreds of photos on the trail, but I've never claimed to be a great photographer and most were pretty unremarkable.  Here's a gallery of the ones I thought came out pretty decent.

And for the gear obsessed here is a full breakdown of the two primary gear sets I carried (click to enlarge).  The first accommodated the pup and my writing habit, the second was a much lighter set I switched into after he stopped hiking with me.  I've broken both of them down in the image below but if you want an even more detailed breakdown I have the full lists with weights for the dog set here and the lighter set here.

Thanks again everyone! Until the next adventure, happy trails!

The Great Smoky Mountains Finale

The end has come at last.  Actually it came awhile ago, I've just been very slow to update the blog... call it a food coma since I've done nothing but eat since I came off the trail.  

About a week into the latest section I finally injured myself.  I say "finally" because really I expected it much sooner.  I'm not exactly the most graceful person.  So, though it was still unfortunate, it came as no real surprise that I sprained an ankle before reaching my ultimate goal of Springer Mountain in Georgia.  

I'm fine, it was a minor sprain, but hiking all day long gives no time for resting or healing, so I was faced with the decision to leave the trail for good, or hole up in a town for a few days and then continue.  Ultimately I chose to come off the trail as delaying several days would push my schedule up against other commitments.

Even so, I was thrilled to be able to cover almost the entire Great Smoky Mountains National Park, which is beautiful at any time of year, but was simply stunning with the changing fall leaves. 


I spent a lot of the hike just looking up and watching the light come through the leaves...

No comment on how exactly I sprained my ankle. 


The trail into the Great Smoky Mountains more or less climbs straight up when you hit the edge of the park and you then spend the next several days hiking ridge lines.  When I say straight up, I mean that I gained over 4000 feet on the first day alone.  After that initial uphill push the following days felt exhaustingly like old n64 cheats (up+down+up+up+L+down+R+up+down+up) with desperate breaks in the middle where I pondered A) whether it was possible for my legs to simply fall off, and B) whose stupid idea this was anyway.  

But although the ridge line hiking meant lots of winded stops and rocky terrain, it also meant really amazing views around pretty much every corner.  Since words can't really describe them here is a photo dump: 


The shortened days as winter drew nearer meant I was usually up and hiking before the sun in order to cover decent mileage.  It was cold but also beautiful watching the sun rise through the trees.  


The highest point in the park is Clingmans Dome at 6643 ft, which is also the highest point on the entire Appalachian Trail (and the state of TN).   The view from the top was fairly obscured by the mist, but they're not called the Great Clear View Mountains.

Clingmans Dome

Clingmans Dome


Other than the beautiful views I've also learned that I'm what's known in AT terms as a "lasher."  I had the following conversation at one of my shelter stops.

A fellow hiker asked one of the most common questions on the trail:  "Are you a thru?"  To which I've always responded, "Nah, just a section hiking chump."  He followed by asking how long I'd been at it and I told him I was at about 400 miles now, and he laughed and said, "Oh you're not a section hiker then, you're a lasher."  

And I said, "A what?" 

"A LASHer.  A Long-Ass-Section-Hiker."

I don't know why this term makes me happy but it does.  Maybe because it feels like I'm in the cool kids club now.   The AT has nicknames for various types of hikers (NOBO- northbound, SOBO- southbound, Flip Flop- hiking half the trail in one direction and then the other half in the other) but these all refer to thru-hikers.  I hadn't heard of a nickname for non-thru-hikers yet.  I've finally made it.  I'm a hiker worthy of the lingo. 

Cool as a cucumber. 

Cool as a cucumber. 

That's all for now!  I'll probably try and do one last post collecting some of my favorite images and a rundown of the total ground I covered.  Thanks for tuning in!

Max Patch... We Meet Again.

I'm hitting the trail again, well rested and freshly fattened up thanks to my quick break! 

I'm returning to my original starting point of Max Patch, NC, and heading south this time.  My hope is to make it all the way to the southern terminus of the trail, Springer Mountain, GA.  Whether or not I make it will depend on how cold it gets at night and how much of a wimp I am.

Max Patch

Max Patch

Below is the gear set I'm heading out with this time.  It's getting genuinely chilly up there in the hills but I can't bring myself to give up the hammock for a tent, so I'm carrying some extra layers (fleece, thermals, and down).  Not pictured because it was hiding in my pack is a compass.  Don't hike without a compass.  Also not pictured because it's shy is a shovel.  Don't hike without a shovel.  

You can roll your mouse over the image to see a labeled version (click here if you're on mobile), or if you want it in list form with weights, here you go you monster.

The only change from the above gear set is that I decided to switch back into my slightly larger pack (an Osprey Exos 46L).  I love the Kumo pictured above and used it for the last 120 miles of my first section, but on this section I'm planning on only resupplying once, which means carrying about 10 days worth of rations at a time... that's a lot of food and I'll have a hard time fitting it in the 36 liter Kumo.  For visual reference, the blue bag in the bottom right of the photo is my food bag loaded with only 5 days worth of food.  So double that, roughly.

As with last time, I'll update whenever I get a strong enough signal.  Until then, adios!

All Aboard the Hiker Express. This Train Knows No Obstacles... Except Pizza.

Over the week following my last post I entered a part of Virginia sometimes called "the green tunnel."  While it's hard to call any part of the AT less than beautiful, this particular stretch isn't a favorite among most AT hikers.  Known for long days with very little to see through the tunnel of trees, and situated about 600 miles into the overall trip for northbound thru-hikers, it's often the cause of the "Virginia Blues," a psychological low point for a lot of thru-hikers where the novelty has worn off and the reality of hiking day after day for months on end starts to sink in, begging the question: "Do you really want to do another 1600 miles of this?"

Given I'm not thru-hiking (and I didn't start at the beginning so I've only done about 350 miles so far) I'm fortunately not feeling any of the blues yet, but it's fair to say there's not that much to see here.  So I decided this would be the perfect time for a bit of a speed challenge!  As I've now been hiking for an average of eight hours a day for over 40 days I'm in what we'll call "great-though-oddly-specific-to-hiking shape."  Don't ask me to run a mile... I only walk now, but I can walk a lot of miles.  

My thought was to do away with planned stopping points and just hike however far I felt like hiking each day for a week.  The goal wasn't to go as fast as possible, but rather to find the speed I'm most comfortable at.  Basically: go as fast as possible while still enjoying the trip and not missing cool stuff or falling off a cliff.  

With my plan in place nothing could possibly stop me!  I did a solid 17 miles on the first day of the challenge and felt great.  I quit well before dark and really felt like I could have done 20 without much trouble.  So as I set out on the second day I made 20 my goal.  At about 2 pm I hit a shelter at a road crossing, which also featured a park visitors center.  Now, the interesting thing about this visitors center is that it just so happens to be within delivery distance of a Pizza Hut...

It turns out pizza can stop me.  

Having covered only 12 miles, and with a good 4 hours or more of workable daylight left, I tried to compromise by telling myself "I'll order a pizza, eat it, then hike another hour or two."  And so I rang up the Pizza Hut and asked the nice lady if they delivered to the visitors center just to be sure.  She said, "We do, but not until after 4."  

Hmmm... If I couldn't even place an order before 4, then added an hour for delivery, then factored in 20 or 30 minutes to eat, plus 20 or 30 minutes to recover because I'd just stupidly eaten an absurd amount of pizza... I'd have no real time left to hike in the day.

So I thought about it really, really hard for almost 10 whole seconds, and then I said, "I'll call back at 4."  


The rest is history.  Delicious, delicious history.  On a side note, no human should consume that much bread and cheese in one sitting.  

Determined to make up for my short day, I set an alarm for 6 am the following morning.  Then at 6 am I turned the alarm off and went back to sleep until my more usual time of 8ish.  Some battles are lost causes, but with the pizza and sleeping out of the way, once again nothing could stop this train!  

Except real trains... this train stops for real trains too.  I saw Stand By Me.  Ain't no way I'm gettin' in front of a train.


Though if I'm being honest I'd actually already crossed the tracks and hiked another hundred yards or more when I heard the approaching clackity-clack and turned around and ran back to the tracks because I just really like trains.  The conductor waved and blew the whistle for me as he passed.  My inner child grinned like an idiot while my outer child played it cool and grinned like a slightly more composed idiot.   

Now, with pizza, sleeping, and real trains all out of the way, once again nothing could stop me!  I managed to cover good ground despite the late start and however many minutes I lost waiting for the train to pass (you gotta wait for the caboose... You just gotta), making a little over 20 miles total, but I didn't really enjoy the last hour.  Fatigue started setting in and my feet felt heavier, so I cut the next day off around 18 miles.  That felt much more comfortable, and it's about what I stuck with for the remaining days, sometimes doing a bit more or a bit less depending on terrain and weather.  I suppose it was perhaps the best week to be stuck in a tunnel of trees with few views, as I also spent most of the week hiking in fog and rain courtesy of Hurricane Matthew.  It turns out weather can stop this train too... I'm not a very good train I've decided.


There's a saying in long distance hiking: never set up camp in the rain.  The idea is to just hike through it (using a headlamp if it gets dark) and eventually it will stop.  It's a nifty idea but someone clearly never explained the saying to the rain.  As anyone who's been caught in a persistent storm knows, sometimes the rain just doesn't stop.  While it proved a little frustrating, especially for my speed test as the terrain became slick and sometimes dangerous, it gave me another fun challenge: testing how my gear setup handled continuous water exposure.

Fortunately for me, my upgraded hammock system turned out to be perfect for never ending rain!  This is one of those things that you tell yourself will work when you're trying to talk yourself into spending the money on an upgrade, but when the time comes to put it to the test you're kind of crossing your fingers and hoping you weren't just making excuses to buy cool stuff.  The biggest change to my system is that I can hang my new tarp independently of my hammock, which means I can basically have myself a good-sized shelter in about 30 seconds.  Even better, since the tarp hangs high and isn't enclosed like a tent it's safe to cook under!  So on a couple nights when the rain was really getting old I tossed in the towel a little early, found a couple nice trees, strung up my tarp, changed into dry clothes, placed my ground pad down so I had a comfy place to sit, and cooked myself a nice, hot meal.  It's amazing the difference having this setup made.  The morale boost of being able to not just get out of the rain but to do it easily and comfortably really can't be understated when you're on your third, fourth... fifth day of rain.  


And when dinner was finished I packed the cooking kit away, strung up the hammock, and read my book until night fell, all without having to leave the safety of the tarp (minus a few quick dashes to run the hammock straps around the trees and hang my food bag... the rain still gets to have a few laughs at you no matter how good your system is).

Home sweet home: 


Hiking in the rain isn't all bad either.  It brings out some interesting creatures.  Check out this little guy!  It's the juvenile stage of the Eastern Newt (sometimes called the Red Spotted Newt, or more specifically in this stage a "red eft").  When the rain started they came out of the woodwork!  I had to be careful not to step on them.  


The snakes don't seem to mind the rain either.  The counter is up to nine, but mostly the harmless kind (harmless as in you won't die, but let's be honest, no one really wants a rat snake to bite them either).


Pizza, newts, and snakes aside, I also hit the quarter point of the trail which is pretty cool.  (The quarter point for northbounders, 3/4 point for southbounders.  Fractions!  How do they work?!)


Well that's pretty much it.  I'm off of the trail now for a quick break.  My parents needed a dog sitter, and as they've so kindly watched my own dog on countless occasions I was glad to oblige.  I'm using the time to replace some minor gear that's suffering under the heavy use and to map out the next stretch of the trip.  My plan is to return to my starting point (Max Patch, NC) and head south this time, crossing through the Great Smoky Mountains and then into Georgia, hopefully reaching the southern start/end point of the Trail: Springer Mountain.  

I'll post again in about a week or so when I'm back in the woods!  Until then, I plan to eat a truly impressive number of burgers.  I think I've scratched the pizza itch for now.  (That's a lie.  I've already eaten more pizza.  There will never be too much pizza in my life.)

Beautiful even in the rain.

Beautiful even in the rain.

Mt. Rogers and the Grayson Highlands, with Special Pony Guest Appearances

Ponies!  Need I say more?  Not really.  Just look at his fluffy face.   


And another.  Because ponies are adorable.   


"But why ponies?  I thought you were in the woods?" you might be asking, and fair enough.   I've just come over Mt Rogers (the highest peak in Virginia) and through an area called the Grayson Highlands.  This stretch of the trail is considered by most hikers to be one of the best parts of Virginia's 554 miles of the AT (a full fourth of the entire AT is in the state of VA).   One of the reasons this part is so spectacular is because large sections of the slopes of Mt Rogers and the surrounding mountains were once cleared by loggers and then used for cattle grazing, creating open meddows with astounding views of the surrounding countryside.  After the area became park land, however, the cattle were removed and the brush started rapidly reclaiming the tops of the hills.  Realizing the views were worth preserving, a grazing program was introduced, and dozens of ponies were released into the area.  They're considered wild, because they get their own food, water, and shelter with no assistance, but most would agree they're pretty tame and I'd venture a guess that they get plenty of handouts from visitors.  I had to literally push this one away after the first photo... 


Ponies aside, if you could tear your eyes away from the cuteness overload, Mt Rogers and the Grayson Highlands had plenty else to look at as well.  The views the ponies were there to preserve were definitely spectacular.  


I got really lucky with the weather and had nice, clear skies the entire time I was up there.  


Along with the views, my birthday passed while I was on the mountain.  I hiked down into the actual state park of Grayson Highlands the day after and met up with my mom, who brought me a wide assortment of all the goodies I've been missing on the trail: chocolate fudge, a caramel apple, pound cake, and... can you believe it?... chicken salad and real bread!   It's amazing the things you really miss eating when you realize you can't carry them in a pack.  I couldn't have asked for a better birthday gift.  Thanks mom!  You're pretty alright!  I'm sorry for anything I said in my teens!  


That's all for now!  Oh alright... One more pony picture.  Look how cute and chubby he is...  


Elvis, Barbeque, Car Shows, and Football. Damascus: Small Town USA

Damascus may just be the epitome of "small town USA."  It's both a little absurd and wonderfully charming in its own way.   It's also one of the favorite "trail towns," perhaps even the trail town for a lot of hikers, hosting the annual "Trail Days" gathering for all things AT related. 


Although I arrived during the offseason it still didn't disappoint, hosting a fall festival put on by the local brewery, an Elvis impersonator, a bbq cookout, and a car show (with some interesting entries among the more standard, beautifully restored classics).  


All that just within two days I was in town.  And what car show would be complete without at least one Elvis on the side?   


And bbq of course.  There's no need for an excuse to have bbq in the South.   


I also took the chance to catch some football, which I'm definitely missing during this trip.  I spent most of Sunday in the local bar, which had an impressive number of craft brews on tap, really good food, and.... a Galaga machine!!!  

Awwwww yes.  Galaga is my jam.  During halftime I wandered over to check it out and was shocked to see an oddly low number in the high score spot.  My competitiveness kicked in and I decided I needed to leave my hiker mark in this trail town.  I got some quarters and fired the beast up... and promptly discovered why the score was so low.  The fire button barely worked hahaha.  But I was determined (also I had several more hours of hanging around watching the games and even I can only drink so much beer).  

Behold, my mighty skill and perseverance!  This town will never forget me, as I'm sure they all regularly check the high scores on a broken machine.  


Also I love naming conventions in small towns.  Who doesn't want to live on the corner of Rambo and Beaver Dam?  


Well that's all for now.  It's back to the woods for me.  

Sweet Virginia

I've crossed the state line into Virginia!  The trip so far has wound its way up the border between North Carolina and Tennessee, fishtailing back and forth so often I'd have been hard pressed to tell you which state I was in at any given time.  Late last night, however, I came to this signpost.  I've been humming a terrible rendition of "Sweet Virginia" ever since.   


The trip has been going smoothly since the last post I'm glad to say, though I remain firmly in bear territory.  A very distressed looking couple hurried up to me two days ago to tell me they'd just seen one.  Their looks of shock were so complete I'd say at the very least they'd had no idea there were bears in this part of the country, and quite possibly no idea that bears were even real creatures, having perhaps labeled them safely under the "balderdash" column between jackalopes and Bigfoot.  

Either way, they asked me how far the nearest road was, which confused me because, unless you have a car waiting for you, hiking to the nearest road doesn't really get you much.  So I tried to clarify and asked if they were looking for the nearest road to a town for supplies and they responded, "No, the nearest road to anywhere.  We're gettin' outta here."

I would have laughed but they were having a rough day clearly.  So I told them the next road was three miles on, though there was nothing there and little chance of passing cars so far out at that time of day, but they took off anyway.  Hopefully they don't make it as far as this sign.  I'm not sure they can handle two such revelations in such a short span of time: 


I've now seen so many bears that my bear counter is threatening to overtake my snake counter (bears: 4, snakes: 5, bigfoots: 0).

Come to me serpents.  Protect me from the bears.

Where's a parselmouth when you need one, am I right?

On the subject of parselmouths, I've been re-reading the Harry Potter series, among other things.  One of my favorite things about backpacking has always been that it gives me time to just lay back and enjoy a good book, making progress on my never ending "to read" list.  (It's a magical list, every time you finish a book five or six more titles have mysteriously been added to the end of the list.  I haven't figured out how it works yet.) 

Since I'm solo hiking I don't bother to make campfires most nights. (Have you ever collected wood for a fire all by yourself?  It gets old fast.) Instead, when nightfall comes, or as we call it on the trail "hiker midnight," I crawl into my hammock and read for a few hours.  You'd be surprised how much you can get through in a couple of hours a day.  I'm now averaging a book every two to three days. 

With such a long hike I figured I'd power through a lot of books, and I know from past experience that I struggle when I change authors and stories so rapidly, becoming fatigued and eventually disinterested.  I call this phenomenon "literary whiplash" and, at least for me, it's usually caused by the changes in tone and style between authors, combined with the obvious changes in characters and worlds when you're jumping between books so quickly.  I've always been a very emotional reader.  I like to get absorbed in the story, until the characters and world feel real.  This is great for the most part, though it can sometimes lead to difficult emotional reactions (upon reading John Knowles's A Separate Peace years ago I was wrecked for weeks afterwards.  A warning to my fellow emotional readers, maybe just say no to that one... Or at least brace yourselves.) 

But I digress, the point is that I decided to try and solve the issue by spacing out the new books with books I'd already read, and which were linked by author and story.  I chose the Harry Potter series because I've always loved them and I've read the whole series numerous times before so I knew they would flow easily.  I've been reading a new book, followed by one of the Harry Potters for several weeks now, tossing in some non-fiction (Mary Roach's Packing for Mars, and Stephen King's On Writing, both great reads and good for a surprising number of laughs), catching up on a few series I follow pretty regularly (any Dresden Files fans out there?), hitting a couple novels that people had reccomended (Ernest Cline's Ready Player One, which I mostly enjoyed, everyone can stop telling me to read it now haha, and Glendon Swarthout's The Homesman), adding in a strange detective novel that I haven't made my mind up on yet... (Dorothy L Sayers's The Nine Tailors, the slowest of slow burns... I had to take a break but I'm hoping to go back to it again with fresh eyes, so I'll reserve further judgement for now), and a few random others.  

In between them all I've plowed through most of the Harry Potters.  I skipped the first two I'll admit.  Not knockin'em, but the third has always been my favorite and I like the darker tone the story takes from that point forward, but story aside.... wouldn't you know... I was shocked to discover Red Caps are listed multiple times in the books (in their murderous goblin form, not their smelly hiker form of course).

I was so tickled the first time I came across it that I actually looked around for someone to show it to, and then I remembered, "Right.  I'm alone in the woods." 

I would have shown the bears but they're still having an averse reaction to Velcro.  I suppose I shouldn't have been so surprised.  After all, my initial Google search for redcaps did reveal they were prominent in English folklore, and JK Rowling is British, but it still came as a shock.

Well... I think I've rambled on quite long enough about all that.  If any of you have reading recommendations though, feel free to send them my way.  I'll add them to the magical list.  

Now back to my humming.  Because there's no one out here to beg me to stop, mwahahahahmmmmmm sweeeet Virginia.  

Also: "Bears are smart, yo." 

Not a bear in sight... 

Not a bear in sight... 

Caution: Bear Crossings

Bring the bear tally up to two please.  This one stepped right out into the trail only about 50 feet in front of me like he was just crossing the street to get groceries.  Look right, look left... Hello human.  What brings you to my neck of the woods on this fine day? 

Needless to say I froze like I'd just seen a... well, a bear.  And he froze because clearly he wasn't expecting to encounter a human on his grocery run.  So we both just stood in the trail and stared... uncertain what to do next.  

For those who don't know, you're not supposed to run from bears.  The "approved" method of handling a bear encounter is to make noise.  I've actually come across a fair number of bears out west, and they're usually quite scared of us.  A little noise takes care of the problem right away.  This, however, was easily the closest I'd been to one, and certainly the closest while alone.  I mean... I figure I'm no sprinter but I can probably outrun at least one of my pals, right?  (And you all thought the boot camps and mud runs were for "fun," ha).  But there I was... with no one to trip or outrun.  Sigh.  

But I kept my cool and drew on my hard earned knowledge of the ways of the wilderness.  

Chapter 7: Scary Beasts and How to Handle Them.  Section 1: Spiders.  No... Section 2: Bigger Spiders... No... Section 3: Spiders that Know How to Jump... Dear god why...  Flip. Flip. Flip.  Section 18: Spiders that Look Almost Cute but Aren't Because They're Still Spiders...  Flip.  Flip.  Flip.  Section 84: Bears.  There we go.

What do you do if you're staring at a bear?  You make noise.  Simple.  But how much noise? And how sudden?  In the moment, my mental chapter on bears was looking dreadfully nonspecific.  I mean... If I shout at the thing will he take that as a challenge?  What if I shout "THIS IS NOT A CHALLENGE.  GO IN PEACE MY SPIRIT FRIEND!"  Will he get it?  Do bears study foreign language in school?  What if he took Spanish instead of English?  What's the Spanish translation of "spirit friend?"  I figure I've only got one shot at this. 

My brain is processing all of this quietly as Mr. Bear and I continue to size each other up.  He's still looking just as shocked as I feel, as if I just caught him with his bear pants down or something, and it occurs to me in that sort of ridiculous way that thoughts sometimes pop up in tense situations, that this would be a cool photo.  I mean... He's standing so nice and still for me.   

So I slowly reach my hand to my camera bag which is hooked to the front of my harness and ever so gently start to pull the flap up.  

Have you ever tried to quietly open Velcro?  Perhaps while staring down a bear in the dead stillness of a forest?  The sound is like a thousand pieces of paper all ripping slowly in half at once.   

That bear was outta there like he'd been shot.   

So, my friends, I pass on this nugget of wilderness wisdom, from Redcap the Just to you.  If ever you find yourself staring at a bear uncertain what to do.  Velcro, my friends.  Velcro.

Now, as I have no photos of the bear himself do to the wildly successful first deployment of my bear deterrent, Bear-Go!-Velcro, let's change the subject and talk about my awesome new hammock setup!


Awwwww yes!   My hiker buddies may remember that I've always preferred to sleep in a hammock when possible.  Having the pup along makes it a no-go though, so I was tenting for the first several weeks.  While I'm still sad the pup couldn't accompany me further there is one upside in that I can switch back to a hammock.  So after some thought I finally decided to bite the bullet and buy the hammock I'd been pining after for months.  I figured there'd never be a better time to upgrade my setup than when I'm spending weeks on the AT, a superb trail for hammocking.  So here it is!  This is Dutchware's Halfwit Hammock, and I'm using Hammock Gear's Cuben Fiber tarp over it.  It's easily the lightest and most adjustable hammocking setup I've ever had and I couldn't be more thrilled!


But, as giddy as I am over the hammock I know it's probably not as exciting for everyone else haha, so here's one more picture and then I swear I'll move on.  (For my fellow ounce counters and gram weenies, this setup including hammock, suspension, tarp, and guy lines comes to just 20.5 oz/582 g).


Alright!  No more hammock talk.  Let's talk about grub!  The longer I'm out on the trail the more I look forward to days where I pass close enough to a town to go get a delicously unhealthy meal.  Ahhhh town food.  That glorious break from granola and beef jerky.  As these are all tiny, little mountain towns with a lot of character I try to find interesting local places, managing to hit a cool little wood fire pizza joint in the last town of Roan Mountain, then yesterday I found this beauty:


Just look at her.  Beautiful.  Bootleggers in Hampton, TN.  When you come to a wonderful little local joint like this you have to do it proper and go all in.


That's a brisket sandwich with smoked gouda on a toasted and buttered bun (I wisely got the "small" size, it was incredibly rich), and thin cut, crispy fries topped with pulled pork, bbq sauce, buffalo sauce, and cheddar cheese sauce (there was no "small" option here... something I may regret later but at least I went out in style).     

I'm proud to say I finished the sandwich and about three quarters of the fries before admitting defeat.  The very nice lady who took my order watched me with some concern, checking in a few times to see how I was doing.  The food was so good I tipped twice, and then I waddled down the street and disappeared back into the woods like the wild, bbq loving, mythical beast that I am.  I'm sure she'll tell tales for years to come.

And that about does it!  Not much else to report.  Oh, my snake counter is up to five now.  This guy wasn't nearly as scared of Velcro, but at least he wasn't a copperhead.   


And if snakes bother you cleanse your mind with this serene photo of a waterfall (and don't think about the fact that I took the photo of the snake about 30 seconds after the photo of the falls... Nature does what nature wants.  Snakes like pretty waterfalls too). 


Okay okay, here's another pretty picture with no snakes (that you can see...).